Apr 4, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio (9) and forward Shabazz Muhammad (15) during the second quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
With the Minnesota Timberwolves 2016-17 NBA campaign finished, we look at their top 10 players from the season.
Another regular season schedule has officially ended in which the Minnesota Timberwolves will not be participating in the NBA playoffs.
The Wolves ended this season with a 31-51 record. That record is a small improvement over last season when they finished 29-53, but too small of an improvement to feel good about the season.
Minnesota made some strides but must make some offseason improvements to become a playoff team next year. They looked good offensively, but struggled to close out games. In addition to that, their defense was lackluster all season.
They Timberwolves have a solid young core that has the potential to take that next step. The average age of the 10 players on this list is 24.4 years. Furthermore, the average age of the top five players on the list is 23 years. The Wolves have a very high ceiling with their current roster.
It will be an exciting group to watch develop, but for now let’s take a look at the top 10 Minnesota Timberwolves players of the 2016-17 season.
Mar 24, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA: Minnesota Timberwolves guard Tyus Jones (1) goes for the ball against Los Angeles Lakers guard David Nwaba (10) during the second half a NBA game at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
10. Tyus Jones
Position: Point Guard Age: 20 Experience: 2nd Season 2016-17 Season Averages: 12.9 MPG, 3.5 PPG, 1.1 RPG, 2.6 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.4 3PM
The Timberwolves had three point guards in their rotation this season. Third on the depth chart was Tyus Jones. He played the least minutes per game of all the players on this list. Because of that he was forced to make the most of his minutes and did just that.
Despite playing 2.6 fewer minutes per game than last season, he improved his shooting percentages across the board.
Jones increased his field goal percentage by five percent, three-point percentage by three percent, and his free throw percentage by six percent over his rookie season. This made him a more efficient player for the Wolves this season and is why he made the top 10.
At 20 years old, Jones is three years younger than rookie Kris Dunn. In fact, he is the youngest player on the Timberwolves’ roster after playing in his second season in the NBA.
Jan 22, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Kris Dunn (3) dribbles in the third quarter against the Denver Nuggets at Target Center. The Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Denver Nuggets 111-108. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
9. Kris Dunn
Position: Point Guard Age: 23 Experience: 1st Season 2016-17 Season Averages: 17.1 MPG, 3.8 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.3 3PM
Kris Dunn put together a better rookie campaign than critics give him credit for. Shooting only 28 percent on threes and 61 percent from the charity strike did not help his case though.
If he can improve on shooting during the offseason he will be in the running for a heavily increased role. His defense was excellent all season long. Defense is something players have to want to do themselves. Dunn has the physical ability to make life challenging for opposing guards.
Overall, his stats were acceptable for a rookie point guard who was asked to play 17.1 minutes a game.
He racked up more points and rebounds than Tyus Jones. Combine that with being a better defender and Dunn just gets the edge over Jones at the ninth spot.
Mar 17, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Brandon Rush (4) is pressured by Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters (11) during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
After the injury of Zach LaVine, the Wolves had to decide where to distribute those minutes. The 31-year-old veteran Brandon Rush ended up being the recipient of a lot of LaVine’s minutes.
Rush filled in and did an excellent job. His numbers were not flashy but they allowed Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Ricky Rubio to continue to play their game.
He scored significantly less than Zach LaVine did, but was still a threat shooting the ball. Rush shot 38 percent from three-point range. That was the highest percentage of anyone on the Timberwolves roster this season.
Feb 1, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward Nemanja Bjelica (88) drives to the basket against Cleveland Cavaliers guard James Jones (1) during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
7. Nemanja Bjelica
Position: Power Forward Age: 28 Experience: 2nd Season 2016-17 Season Averages: 18.3 MPG, 6.2 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.9 3PM
Nemanja Bjelica provided production off the bench until he fractured a bone in his left foot in March.
He finished seventh on the team in points per game, fifth in rebounds and eighth in assists. His bench success was very important to a Timberwolves team that did not get a lot of bench production throughout the season.
Jan 22, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Gorgui Dieng (5) blocks Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay (0) in the fourth quarter at Target Center. The Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Denver Nuggets 111-108. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
6. Gorgui Dieng
Position: Power Forward Age: 27 Experience: 4th Season 2016-17 Season Averages: 32.4 MPG, 10.0 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.2 3PM
Only three players played and started in every game for the Wolves this season. The first two are Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. The third was power forward Gorgui Dieng.
He provided excellent stability to the team along with quality statistics. This is a position the team may upgrade this offseason, but for now Dieng has solidified the spot with the current roster due to scoring 10 points a game and averaging 7.9 rebounds.
Dieng has improved every year since his rookie season. Due to that, his minutes have gradually increased over the last 4 years. During his rookie year he played 13.6 minutes a game. This year he played a career-high 32.4 minutes.
In addition he added a three-point shot to his game. During his second season he averaged 30 percent from three. This last season he shot 38 percent from deep.
Jan 22, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward Shabazz Muhammad (15) dribbles in the fourth quarter against the Denver Nuggets guard Jameer Nelson (1) at Target Center. The Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Denver Nuggets 111-108. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
5. Shabazz Muhammad
Position: Small Forward Age: 24 Experience: 4th Season 2016-17 Season Averages: 19.4 MPG, 9.9 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 0.4 APG, 0.3 SPG, 0.6 3PM
The Timberwolves have a tough decision on their hands this offseason, when Shabazz Muhammad will become an unrestricted free agent. The team has to decide if they want to persuade him to return or if they want to head in another direction.
Muhammad is the Wolves’ best player off the bench. He led the bench in scoring with 9.8 points a game. In addition, he shot a 48 percent from the field, helping him be more efficient on the court.
Despite playing 13 minutes less than Dieng, Muhammad was able to average only 0.1 less points per game. He is a good scorer off the bench and that is something the Timberwolves were in desperate need of all season.
Mar 15, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio (9) sets up the offense during the first quarter against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
4. Ricky Rubio
Position: Point Guard Age: 26 Experience: 6th Season 2016-17 Season Averages: 32.9 MPG, 11.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 9.1 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.8 3PM
This was the best season Ricky Rubio has played in a Timberwolves uniform, averaging the most points and assists per game in his career.
His shooting improved as well. In fact, he shot a career high field goal and free throw percentage. That was one of his biggest knocks so it is good to see him heading in the right direction.
Rubio finished fourth in the NBA in assists per turnovers, posting 3.5 assists for every turnover he committed. That made him a great fit with the next three young stars on the list.
Nov 30, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine (8) shoots over New York Knicks center Marshall Plumlee (40) during the fourth quarter at Target Center. The Knicks defeated the Timberwolves 106-104. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Up until the knee injury that ended his season, Zach LaVine was having the best season of his three-year career.
He was averaging 18.9 points a game which is third on the team. That is also a 4.9 increase over last season. He solidified his role as one of the Wolves’ Big Three with his consistent and improved play.
LaVine is an exciting player to watch, largely in part to the energy he brings with his flashy dunks. Hopefully he is able to fully recover from his injury and pick up right where he left off.
Apr 9, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins (22) dunks the ball as Los Angeles Lakers forward Corey Brewer (3) defends during a NBA basketball game at Staples Center. The Lakers defeated the Timberwolves 110-109. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
2. Andrew Wiggins
Position: Small Forward Age: 22 Experience: 3rd Season 2016-17 Season Averages: 37.2 MPG, 23.6 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.3 3PM
Wiggins had an excellent year for the Wolves and showed that he is not far from superstar status in the NBA. His offensive game improved and he became an elite scorer, averaging 23.6 points a game.
His shooting ability started to come around too. He shot 35 percent from three, which was a five percent increase over last season.
Wiggins played and started in every game for the Wolves this past season. He was durable and the team counted on him to compete every night.
Apr 4, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) drives to the basket against the Golden State Warriors during the first quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
1. Karl-Anthony Towns
Position: Center Age: 21 Experience: 2nd Season 2016-17 Season Averages: 37.0 MPG, 25.1 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 2.7 APG, 0.7 SPG, 1.2 3PM
In only his second season Karl-Anthony Towns led the Wolves in points, rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage. He is already a star in the NBA. The scary thing is that he is only going to improve at 21 years old.
He improved his scoring by 6.8 points over last season. He is a versatile center who was the biggest factor in the wins the Timberwolves tallied this season.
Towns played at an All-Star level and the sky is the limit for him heading into next season.